Fashion photographer Corina Lecca, who worked in tandem with her husband Dan for decades, has died at the age of 75.
She had been experiencing some discomfort and was at Nuvance Health Vassar Brothers Medical Center in Poughkeepsie, New York, at the time of her death on Tuesday, according to her son Sacha.
Plans for a tribute have not yet been discussed.
From the ’80s onward, the Leccas could be found in the photographers’ pit at the end of runways in New York and other fashion capitals. Her husband, who was also self-taught, was the first to venture into the field. Early on in her career, Corina Lecca worked for The New York Times but the majority of her career was spent shoulder-to-shoulder with her husband. He declined comment until a later time.
For many in the fashion crowd, the Leccas were an inseparable duo. From her son’s perspective, she was “very patient and more of a saint,” who provided the public face of the family business. Before forging into magazine publishing, Sacha Lecca, who is now Rolling Stone’s deputy photo editor, had a stint pitching in to help his parents during hectic fashion weeks.
That up-close view revealed their respective styles as well as a divide-and-conquer approach, with the husband-and-wife team stationed in different spots at the end of a designer’s runway. Unlike other photographers, they preferred to overshoot so that they covered everything. Sometimes one would focus on full-length runway shots, and the other would zoom in on accessories or other details.
Such tight quarters and togetherness would be too much for many couples, but not for them. As for why, their son said, “It would be the same answer, if you had asked, ‘Why a couple could have such a great marriage for 53 or 54 years?’ The thing is it was really an extension of their lives and the way that they worked. They loved what they did. They each had their strengths and they balanced each other very well.”
Born in Berkeley, California, to a father who was in the Foreign Service, and an artistic and eclectic mother, Corina Lecca had two sisters. Growing up, the family lived in different cities, including Washington, D.C., and Bangkok, due to her father’s role.
As a young woman she traveled to Romania to visit one of her sisters, who was there at the time. During that trip, she met her future husband, who was born in the country. Thunderstruck upon meeting, the couple had an abbreviated courtship, with neither about to be dissuaded from marriage. At that time, Dan Lecca performed in a popular Bulgarian band, Coral. Years later, when the couple’s twins Sacha and Samantha were born in a London hospital (the preferred location for quality care versus a Bucharest one) Dan Lecca got the news of their arrival while backstage at a performance.
Early in their marriage the Leccas lived in Rome for a stretch before putting down roots in the U.S., in Queens, New York. Italian was among the languages spoken by the multilingual couple. Shooting fashion runways around the globe, they were part of a pack of a few hundred photographers who specialized in this type of coverage, and hopscotched from one city to the next. They excelled in the medium before influencers and bloggers proliferated. “It was a very specific and unique cadre of fashion runway photographers,” Sacha Lecca said.
Their commitment level was so intent that the couple routinely hit runway shows that they had not been hired for, because they believed in the work that those — sometimes unheralded — designers were doing. “Often their presence would be an indicator that there was something special happening [there],” Sacha Lecca said. “They knew the industry so well. I was always impressed by how they could navigate the industry so well. I think that’s why they have lasted so long [in it].”
Fern Mallis, who watched the Leccas in action at the New York Fashion Week during her years at the CFDA, described them Wednesday as the godmother and godfather of the photographers’ pit. Small, but strong, Corina Lecca impressed Mallis with how she could trudge the heavy equipment from one show to the next season-after-season. “There was no one nicer or kinder.” Mallis said.
Having pitched in editing their runway photos here and there, he said while runway photography seems like it should be easy enough, it’s not. What struck him was “just how rare it would be for his parents to miss a moment or a look,” he said, adding that his mother had a knack for capturing the nuances, whether that be a model’s hand gesture or how she motioned her head. “Sometimes that makes the difference between a very suitable image of a model on a runway and a more elegant photograph that can stand on its own.”
Accustomed to having been knee-deep in work, Corina Lecca still made a point of keeping up with current events, fashion trends and reading avidly, with mysteries by Agatha Christie and Patricia Cornwell being favorites. Along with maintaining an up-to-the-minute fashion sense, she was also open to being introduced to new music. A few years back she attended a punk music festival in the woods of upstate New York with her son and “she had a blast.”
Predeceased by her two sisters, Lecca is survived by her husband, and their son and daughter, who is a director and producer as well as a partner at Polo Grounds Films.